Please advise on used car AWD vs FWD SEDAN


#1

Hello everyone! I’m looking for a sedan AWD for my 16 yr old. It’s his first car and my budget is about $6500. I’ve been looking at Subaru Legacy but the milage goes about 150000 give and take! Please advise if you think other cars. He is set on a sedan and with snow and ice condition I want an AWD for safety!


#2

Forget AWD and concentrate of getting a good FWD car for a good price. Take the savings and order a set of 4 winter tires (not M&S rated, real winter tires) mounted on a second set of wheels for winter use only. That will just about meet any winter needs this side of the Yukon.


#3

Agree; at your budget a FWD econobox with low mileage is the answer. Good winter tires will be suitable for nearly everywhere in the USA.


#4

I just think a 16 yr old should be put in the safest car you can afford. if possible wait until they are a bit older


#5

At that budget you’ll get a safer car by getting a newer FWD intermediate (Camry, Fusion, Accord, Altima), make sure it has side air bags.


#6

What area do you live in? Does he REALLY need AWD, or just want to go 4-wheeling once in a while? How much snow do you really have? Consider that 4WD/AWD may get him going, but it won’t stop him any faster. That may make it actually more dangerous than FWD as he may think he can be out on snowy roads taking his friends wherever…

If AWD is a MUST, I’d suggest a ten year old Jeep Grand Cherokee. Always in style, because they don’t change a lot.

If a sedan is a must, the other’s answers above should be heeded. Ask yourself (especially if you are writing the check) if AWD is truly needed. My wife insists of a Jeep, but frankly she has not missed work in over 30 years due to roads she couldn’t have driven down with a good FWD car and adequate tires. Shoot, we used to all drive RWD cars, and we either got where we were going, or we stayed home.


#7

Used AWD cars like all cars you don’t know the driving history can be more expensive to repair.

Bear with me while I digress on my pet peeve.

DO NOT GET AN AWD CAR FOR SAFETY to save money on winter tires…That is a fallacy. Cars are only as safe as the shoes you put on them. I have seen kids drive AWD cars unsafely, because they could. They can be very safe with winter tires if driven sanely. But, unless you live off road on a perpetually ice covered road, buy winter tires and rotate them for safety on a fwd compact car. Getting an AWD car for a kid without proper tires and education, is like giving him a Corvette and a license to speed. They can get you in big trouble driving too fast on snow and ice and without the proper tires, you might as well be speeding in a race car. Sounds to me if you are limited in funds to buy a car, you are limited in buying two sets of tires with winter rims. If you can’t afford to own an AWD car and prepare it properly, like a high performance car they are in winter, then DON’t.

An AWD car with poor traction tires can still out accelerate ANY 2wd cars with snow tires. THEN WHERE ARE you ? In big trouble. Inexperienced drivers need to drive cars that are self limiting and forgiving. A compact fwd car with snow tires for winter is just that. If it’s too severe, they get stuck and you have to call for help. But you aren’t trying to take corners in snow at 60 mph because they think they can.

I live in an area where a lot of guys put their kids , wives and others in their family in 4wd and AWD cars without winter tires with disastrous results, especially with truck based jeeps…


#8

Back when guard rail ends were angled into the ground, I remember seeing an SUV perched upright on top of a rail with all 4 wheels off the ground. Obviously no injuries, but I’d hate to see the undercarriage of that truck.


#9

@MGMcAnick.
Actually, the rwd cars of old were not the same as today’s rwd cars. I can say that my family had VWs with narrow tires and weight over the rear wheels. My dad’s Chevy Biscayne had very narrow tires which are good in snow, and he was smart enough to throw weight in the back when needed. The ground clearance on many of these cars were better. So, even though they were rwd, most had narrower tires and because everyone had them, we all knew how to drive them and how to prepare them. All of today’s cars including fwd and rwd have fat floating tires and 99% of the people don’t have a clue how to drive or prepare a rwd car for winter. Besides, we were used to walking when the got stuck and didn’t have cell phones. We actually had legs that worked, unlike many of today’s teens and getting stuck was an adventure we could muscle our way our of because most kids had them then…muscles. Look at some of your old class pictures and compare with many kids today.


#10

The problem sometimes with AWD is the perception by some who have it that they can motor around on a sheet of ice or foot deep snow in perfect safety.
An AWD or 4WD can get you rolling a little better but once crossed up it will slide into the ditch just as easily as anything else.


#11

The Subaru is a great car but depending on how much Ice and snow we’re talking about a Accord/Camry/Altima/Mazda6 with a good set of winter tires would get him around just as well. Even with AWD you would have much more control with winter tires in those conditions. My Brother and his family have a 2006 Legacy Wagon which even though it has AWD it wears winter tires for the season.

When She purchased her new Jeep many years ago a friend of mine went out one snowy night and in a nearby shopping center parking lot spent some time getting used to how the vehicle behaves in snow and ice and got some real practice in a reasonably controlled area. Made her a much better driver in winter.


#12

Where do you live? Do you really need winter tires? They are designed for places with several months of extremely cold weather. Like below 40 degrees. If your weather isn’t get that cold often in the winter when you’re driving, don’t bother. In higher temperatures they don’t give good handling and the tread wears a lot faster. The places they make sense are the upoer midwest, inland parts of the notheast, Alaska, and high mountain areas. Car Talk forum members seem to be concentrated in those areas, possibly because Tom And Ray were based in Boston. Some of them seem to forget that half the US population lives in places with mild winters where snow tires would be an expensive mistake. AWD can make sense in some of those warmer states if they get a lot of snow, or even a lot of rain. Or if you drive on unpaved roads often.

If you’re in an extremely cold climate, winter tires are your top priority. They can do a lot more to protect your kid than AWD. AWD is nice to have, but don’t twist yourself in knots tring to find it. The Subarus have had some serious reliability problems over the years, and their AWD system is more comolex than most and easier to damage.

What would I look for? Any Subaru, but read up on the head gasket problems and which models are effected. The Legacy is nice, but their other models were often nice, too.

Most compact crossovers are OK. The Honda CR-V is the most popular, but also has high resale prices, so you may not get a great bargain. The Toyota RAV4 is fine, but may also be expensive. The Nissan Rogue is very bland and not very popular, so may be cheaper. The Hyundai Tucson is nice, and recent years of the Kia Sportage. Older Kias weren’t well made. The Mazda CX-7 was not especially popular, but it’s attractive and nicely equipped. The main problem is the engine. For its first few years it only came with a turbo four that had huge turgo lag that made it unpleasant to drive. The last couple of years they also sold it with a normally aspirated four that was not quite powerful enough for most tastes, but was adequate. Probably a good idea for a new driver not to have a quick car. The Ford Escape isn’t the most sophisticated vehicle around, but they made it for so long they had time to get it debugged. The problem with cars (as opposed to crossovers) is that AWD usually only came as part of a fully loaded option package. They were very expensive to begin with and their used prices are also high. Subaru is an exception to that, as for many years all of their vehicles were AWD.


#13

It bears repeating. In the $6500 range, your chances of getting a reliable car are diminished significantly when you include the option of AWD. You are now giving up mileage and shear numbers of good cars available. Like I said earlier, if you can’t get away from home at all because of where you live, without AWD, which is true where I live, then you have no choice. If you do, and the entire thread is devoted to that fact, stay with fwd compact and get snow tires on rims for the winter months. That is the best advice most are giving here.


#14

How handy are you with car repairs? Do you know anyone who can help you see what’s “really up” with a used car? This is a question to ask for any $6500 or less car. I can tell you, my sister has bought 3 10 yr old Subaru’s for $4000 and less with 160,000 or more miles. She has driven each for at least 50,000 miles and 2 years. On average she puts in $1200 in parts beyond wear items like headlights and tires, but MANY of these parts she and her husband install themselves or with help from a Subaru mechanic they know. Labor costs are often 50% or more of the repair bill.

So if you can youtube, willing to take the plunge, you can easily make a car in your pricerange work for a couple years, even a Subaru.

I am not an old-timer really, I’m in my early 30s. I’ve driven FWD and Subarus, and occasionally a RWD / 4WD pickup truck. What do I like about my AWD Subarus realistically? Things that don’t matter to you, or are dangerous. In the summer and on dry or wet roads, I can drive in an unsafe but fun manner. 4 wheel drifts in an AWD are a bit exhilarating even if only for a second.

I live in the Southern Tier of New York, and we are mostly rural and get decent amounts of snow. AWD doesn’t help drive on the roads more than FWD did in my daily driving. I just take the day off of work if it looks super bad, just like I did with FWD. My driveway is a steepish hill with a flat top next to the house where I like to park. With FWD I could do it in the summer, but had to park at the bottom of the hill in the winter - it wouldn’t make it up the gravel driveway. Subaru AWD or the Pickup 4WD make it to the top in the winter.

So I like Subaru’s, but I don’t see that they allow me to go on the roads when a modern FWD wouldn’t (at least compared to 90s FWD), and they are safe, but that’s because of VDC, ABS, Airbags and the like, not really the AWD.


#15

“An AWD or 4WD can get you rolling a little better but once crossed up it will slide into the ditch just as easily as anything else.”

@ok4450 … that statement should be emblazoned on a metal plaque and affixed to the dash on every AWD or 4WD in existence. The worst wrecks I saw in wintertime back when I drove a wrecker…were 4WD vehicles. There were not many AWD vehicles back in those days so I can’t speak for them personally.


#16

Or printed on the visors in big, bold, red, capitalized 75pt Ariel font. Especially on SUVs. In bad winter weather I always keep an especially good distance between myself and SUVs on the highways. I wish I had a ten-spot for every one I’ve seen slide off the road. With their high Cg, short wheelbase, and unrealistic owner expectations, they’re all over the sides of the highways in snowstorms.


#17

Truck based locked differential systems are especially prone to poor slippery road performance. By their shear nature when cornering at too high a speed, having the front and rear tires spin at at exactly the same rates when they should not, can throw you out of control in a heart beat. A good AWD car is a different matter. They actually enhance cornering as well as make your active traction and stability control devises more effective. Their problem is, they are so good you can easily drive well beyond the traction limits of your tires not realize it. The best way to use an AWD car which is safer for winter driving than any fwd car, is to drive them sanely and at speeds no higher then conditions permitt for fwd. with that stipulation along with winter tires you are safer in AWD. Unfortunately as you can tell by many posts, people use them as a substitute for winter tires when actually they need them MORE then fwd.


#18

High mileage AWD-4WD vehicles tend to have high repair costs, sometimes devastating repair costs that total the vehicle…I agree with the others that a 4 cylinder FWD car with good winter tires it the way to go…


#19

If safety of your 16 yo is the most important consideration, then AWD should not be considered. An inexperienced driver is only going to learn the limits of driving on snow and ice by exceeding the limits on occasion. That means they are going to loose control, its not an if but when and how many times.

Your main concern should be just how fast do you want him to be going when he looses control.

I suggest that you buy him an old Crown Vic RWD. You may be able to get one of those for considerably less that the $6500 you have in the budget. Put good all season tires on it. This will limit his speed when driving on snow and ice. The advantages to this limited speed will be:

Lower speed if he hits anything when he goes out of control (and a bigger vehicle).

Better chance of recovery when out of control because he will be going slower and have more time to try the recovery techniques.

More successful recoveries will mean learning the recovery techniques quicker.

After a winter of driving the Crown Vic, if it does not accumulate any body damage from the sliding around, then sell it and upgrade. You should get most of your money back in the sale and still have the rest of the budget available. Then go with a small to medium sized FWD and get winter tires for the next winter, all season for the summer.


#20

When discussing AWD and 4 wd vehicles, many use the terms interchangeably. They are as different as night and day and truck based 4wd is a dismal on road vehicle when driven a t highway speeds during slippery conditions. Because they can’t be engaged on bare pavement, they often aren’t even engaged when people hit slippery patches. AWD is always engaged and enhances handling and accelerating under control. They are not the same thing.